Claire Langford is ready to move on. She's grieved for her late husband, and now it's time she made a different life for herself and her kid. She's got a new business in the works that should accomplish that. Before the plan gets off the ground, however, she needs Nate Wyatt's help. First she has to track the man down, then drag him to New Zealand.
Too bad Nate is complicated times ten. Given how difficult it was to persuade him to make the trip, she's not prepared for his kindness, his support...his captivating attention. And she's definitely not prepared to fall for him! But it just might be too late to stop that from happening....
Ears ringing from the explosion, Nathan Wyatt struggled to retain consciousness, one hand instinctively closing on his weapon, while he flung the other forward to find a brace as the Humvee spun one hundred and eighty degrees. His nose hurt like a bastard.
The vehicle ground to a halt on its destroyed front tires with a slamming jolt, facing the second of the four-vehicle convoy they'd been leading.
From the backseat, Nate blinked, trying to process what he was seeing.
The road mine had blown in the hood, twisting their custom-fitted bull bars into a kids' climbing frame and sending shrapnel tearing into the interior. Groaning, Ross slumped over the steering wheel, blood soaking his lower body. Beside him, Steve raised shaky hands to a head wound.
The roar of an accelerator dragged his attention through the shattered windscreen. The second convoy vehicle was reversing at high speed, its occupants--local allies--firing wildly. Bullets whizzed past the mangled Humvee. C'mon, guys, we taught you better than--
The truck imploded in a blinding flash of light and the Humvee shuddered under a percussion shock. Gravel, rock and flaming debris showered the roof. Nate's brain engaged. Fast. The first improvised explosive device had been weight triggered. The second, timer detonated. Someone had waited to set it off when the truck backed up to find cover.
He jerked upright, wiped a hand over his rapidly swelling nose. "Ambush!" he hollered at Lee. No response. For the first time he realized the gunner's legs weren't dangling from the turret. Seizing a link of ammo for the .50 machine gun bolted to the Humvee's roof, he yelled at Steve, "We've lost Lee!"
The jerry cans of fuel exploded in the burning truck, spewing flaming material in every direction and belching clouds of black smoke. It swirled through their doorless vehicle, making him cough.
"Need help!" Steve shouted. Grabbing the comms unit with one hand, he used the other to press down on an arterial wound in Ross's thigh that was pumping blood like an oil well, thick and viscous.
Nate dropped the ammo link and scrambled for the medic kit.
"Contact, contact!" Steve shouted, giving the coordinates for backup as Nate ripped the packaging on an elastic latex band and jerked it tight a couple inches above the wound. A third explosion from the burning truck rocked their vehicle, and Nate cursed as one of the two steel S-hooks caught Ross's flesh. Good thing he was unconscious.
Steve dropped the mic and took over with Ross. "Got it. Recon!"
Reshouldering the link of ammo and his weapon, Nate swung up through the hole in the Humvee's roof, emerging into fierce heat and choking clouds of noxious black smoke. Even through a broken nose he could distinguish the obscene note of barbecuing flesh.
The blazing truck was providing temporary cover. But it only needed a shift in the hot desert wind to expose them. To show the enemy their job wasn't done. It took one glance to ascertain the machine gun was inoperable. As he armed his M4A1 with a grenade launcher, he strained to see through the stinging smoke. Trying to locate the enemy, sight Lee, discover an LUP--laying-up position. The fumes coated his throat, already tight with emotion he couldn't afford. Stay alive, mate. We'll come for you.
But first they had to save themselves.
The ringing in his ears gone, he could hear exploding rocket-propelled grenades, bursts of 40mm grenade fire and the steady stream of small arms and machine guns....